By Thanasis Gavos – London
“Flowers can explain everything… ‘I like you, I love you, forgive me, believe me, I am proud of you…’ I think everyone can understand their whispering, their meaning,” says Lily Tsoni on the eve of International Women’s Day. Mrs Tsoni is a Greek writer whose book Josephine: the Black, the White has made a quick impact among the English speaking readers after its translation.
Mrs Tsoni draws on her life experiences and presents a collection of childhood memories, memories of a woman in multiple roles. “You ask me if it is hard to be a woman… Some women face more difficulties than others; some will never escape a difficult life, while for others life is not difficult enough or difficult at all. Life itself is hard; the combination of being in a certain place, in a difficult time and under a difficult condition is what makes a woman’s life hard.” Yet, “there are many opportunities for a woman today and she is called to discover them – but the end is not always a happy one.”
Lily Tsoni acknowledges that these additional opportunities have to a degree also altered the balance in the relationship between women. “I’m afraid these relationships have changed. It’s all the more competitive now. Competition between women is bigger than ever. It doesn’t always have to do with the opportunities, the added activities and responsibilities in comparison to 60 years ago, when women used to keep friendships from the kindergarten until the end of their life. That also happens today but now you often hear things like ‘I have no time even to meet you for a coffee’ or ‘I remember you but I’m very busy’. It gets competitive.”
Does the change also affect the relationship between mother and daughter? “Absolutely! But in a different way. The distance between generations still exists but thoughts are clearer and softer. There are some small details that make the relationship between mums and daughters better. Of course, I am sure that even the best mum in the world will never ever be friends with her daughter in the narrow meaning of the word. A daughter will never tell all her secrets to her mum. It has to be like that. Today mothers listen more to their daughters though. There is something I always say: we must remember what we liked or disliked in our daughter’s age and try to avoid what we hated.”
So, who is Josephine? “Well, Josephine is every child in the world… black white… whatever their creed or culture. Josephine is any grandmother and any mother who once upon a time was a little girl, now grown up and still remembering her childhood with sweet nostalgia, even if she had no doll. Josephine is the memory of the parties where mum, dad and their friends were dancing twist, tango, charleston, shake and blues. Josephine is also any mother and mother-in-law trying to get to like the girl her son picked to live with. Josephine is any young girl who was born and lived in Greece in the ‘50s and the ‘60s and dared to take the big step and travel to the other side of the ocean and get married to the emigrant the matchmaker recommended in a letter. Josephine is any sister proud of her long lost brother, any woman who followed the man of her dreams to the other hemisphere. Josephine is any woman who raised her children alone. Josephine is a book, mainly for women but also for anybody else whose childhood innocence keeps coming in their dreams.”